Monday, June 5, 2017

The Offensive Cyber Security Supply Chain

During the past few weeks some people asked me how to build a "cyber security offensive team". Since the recurring question I decided to write a little bit about my point of view and my past experiences on this topic without getting into details (no: procedures, methodologies, communication artifacts and skill set will be provided). 

Years ago a well skilled and malicious actor (let me call him hacker, even if I am perfectly aware this is not the right word) could launch a single and sophisticated attack able to hit significative infrastructures causing large and glaring damages.  Nowadays this scenario is (fortunately) more unlikely since cyber defense technology made huge steps ahead and public/private organizations are teamed in blue teams with cyber security experts. The most doubtful of my readers are probably thinking that offensive technology made a huge steps ahead as well, ad I perfectly agree with you ! However you might probably agree with me that attacks complexity is arising a lot, in fact years ago to perform a successfully cyber attack you didn't need intermediations such anonymizers, malware evasion techniques, fast flux, DGA and -- more generally speaking -- all the required techniques to trick (or illude) blue teams, since no blue teams (or very few of) were existing. My point here is pretty clear, while years ago a single hacker was enough to attack a structured system (for example: ICS, Governative Networks, or Network Corporation) nowadays if you really want to successfully create a cyber security "army" you need a structured group of people. Talented people are very important but not as they were during the past years. On my personal point of view talented people should move from technical operations to organizational operations. I'll try to better explain my point of view following the reading.

The question now gets pretty easy: "What that group does ? And ..  how should it be organized ?".
 A team is usually a group of people that works together in order to reach a common target. The target should be clear to every team member (if you want a performing team) and every team member should share the same team belief to get the tasks done -- in order to quickly reach out the targets.

The group of people making an "offensive cyber security group" is not a "team" (as mentioned before) but it is closed to be a software supply chain where everybody has specific tasks and different targets. Let me putting in this way, if your task is to build a PDF parsing library you don't need to know where your library will be used, since your target is to build a generic and reusable library. Someone could use your library for a nice "automatic invoice maker" or for "injecting malicious javascript into a PDF" and for you (the PDF library writer) nothing should change. For such a reason I would not call this "group of people": Offensive Cyber Security Team but rather Offensive Cyber Security Supply Chain (OCSSC). Every step of the supply chain is made by specific team.
As every supply chain, the OCSSC needs common rules, methodologies and best practices to be shared between the every stages such as:
- Communication Artifacts. What are the artifacts to be exchanged between the supply chain teams?
- Procedures. What are the global procedures that shall be followed between teams ? What the procedures needed intra-team ?
- Tools. What are the most useful tools to be used intra-team ? and what tools to be used extra-team ?
- Skill Sets. What are the skill sets needed for each team ? 
- Recovery procedure. What are the special procedure to recovery plan intra team ?

I am not going into that questions since my goal is not to help my readers in building an OCSSC but contrary is to alert blue teams that offensive people are getting day by day more structured and purposeful. However I will give a broad view on how the OCSSC should be made in 2017.

The following image shows 5 stages representing 5 different teams which shall collaborate together through well known artifacts.

Offensive Cyber Security Supply Chain

I call the first team the Hunters. This team should be able to find new exploitable vulnerabilities on common software. This team needs to have strong infiltrates into hacking community in order to eventually acquire 0Days from 3-parties and to have update and sharpy fuzzers. This team needs a private cloud with intensive computational resources for getting fuzzing to several parallel softwares. It gets feedbacks on how to "fuzz" from community and from the "DEV-stage" team which should indicate to the Hunters what is the most interesting software to investigate for vulnerabilities. On a real life this team could be the one who finds vulnerabilities like for example the infamous MS17-10.

I call the second team: DEV- Stage. This team is mainly made by developers. Aim of dev-stage is to develop droppers starting from exploits. In fact it takes exploits artifacts from the "Hunters" and arm the developed exploit kits and/or weponize the developed worm. The Staging team should be able to answer to the question: "How do I technically infect victims" ? The Dev-Stage gets two artifact as input: one from the Payload team suggesting what kind of dropping method do they need, and the other one from Intruders which will suggest the Staging team to focus more on "web" or more on "physical" or more on "dedicated devices" and son on. On real life this team could be the one who builds exploit kits and or dropping technology such as for example "ethernal blue".

I call the third team DEV- Payload. This team is mainly made by developers and software testers. Aim of DEV- Payload is to build the dropped payload. This team needs to take care about communications channels, system persistence, evasion techniques and extensibility. It gets artifacts from staging team in order to perform deep and well structured tests and feedbacks from Intruders which suggest what functionalities should be developed in order to reach the Intruder's target.  In the real life this team is the one who develops Malware (or RAT) such as for example: WannaCrypt0r or DoublePulsar.

I call the fourth team Intruders. Intruders are the ones who perform the first intrusion actions. This team gets as input artifacts such as: (1) the deployed dev-stage (for example the Exploit Kit to be implanted) and (2) the developed payload (for example the Malware to be dropped on target system). It also gets feedbacks from the social team getting suggestions on what website and/or infrastructure to be attacked. The intruders are not developers but mainly penetration testers people who get access to external sources (such as: public web sites or public infrastructures) and compromise them injecting the Dev-Stage artifacts. The intruders might need to build new infrastructure such as new websites, or new public resources in order to fully arm a target system. In the real life this team could be the one who infects public websites with Exploit Kits such as for example: Angler, Neutrino or Terror EK.

I call the fifth team The Socials. This team is mainly made by communicators, marketing people who are able to perform the following actions: on one site getting and giving light artifacts (A2l) from/to the hacking community in order to get persistence on it and on the other hand to attract targets to the prepared infrastructures (made by intruders). They give feedbacks to intruders in order to move their operations to what really is useful to attacked target. On real life this group is the most close to Human-Intel.

Every team in the Offensive Cyber Security Supply Chain needs to work together but without knowing external team targets. Every team is charged of specific goals. Communication  artifacts, sharing tools, operational tools play fundamental roles in getting things done.  A talented supervisor is needed in order to get smooth communication between teams and to organize the overall supply chain. This is one of the most important roles who must belong to a great leader be able o deal with super talented and technical people. The supervisor should know very well: methodologies, processes, best practices and he shall have a brilliant view of the overall scenario. He shall have an intensive technical and hacking background and he should never stop to learn from other members. Great communication skills are required in order to develop leadership.

My post was about Offensive Cyber Security Supply Chain. The goal of this quick blog post was to move forward common blue teams and defense agencies by increasing their awareness on how OCSSC should be made in 2017. We are currently experiencing a big move forward in OCSSC from single talented individuals to well structured and organized supply chains, we need to enforce and to structure defenses as well.  

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